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On Uptown Theatre's 90th Anniversary, 5 Things You Should Know

By Josh McGhee | August 18, 2015 7:06am
 The Theater hosted its final show in 1981: the J. Geils Band.
The Theater hosted its final show in 1981: the J. Geils Band.
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DNAinfo/Josh McGhee

UPTOWN — In honor of the long-shuttered Uptown Theatre 90th anniversary Tuesday, here's five quick facts about the theater.

1. Happy Belated Birthday, (sort of): On Aug. 17, 1925, the theater held its VIP preview of the film "The Lady Who Lied" before opening to the public the next day. Though reviews were mixed, fans raved about the beauty of the theater, according to Theater's Facebook page.

2. Life as a Movie Palace: The theater, at 4186 N. Broadway, was designed by C.W. and Geo L. Rapp for the Balaban and Katz Corp., which started as a family business and by the 1920s controlled most of the film theaters in Chicago. When the Uptown opened it was billed as "an acre of seats in a magic city," a phrase coined to describe the 4,300-plus seats in the 46,000 square-foot theater. By the end of the 1920s, more than 20 million people had attended the Uptown, according to the theater's website.

3. The Music of the '70s:  During the '70s, the theater was revived as a music venue. The stage was graced by musicians such as Bruce Springsteen & the E-Street Band, Prince, Bob Marley, the Grateful Dead, ELO, Elvis Costello, Santana, Rod Stewart and Rick James. Watch Bob Marley's Performance at Uptown Theater Below:

4. How it Got its Shape: According to the Chicago Tribune, the theater is L-shaped because they were unable to purchase the building next to it. "Hence, the lobby is positioned perpendicular to the auditorium." Before the theater was acquired, it had been used as an outdoor beer garden and dance hall by the nearby jazz club Green Mill, the Tribune reports.

5. Closed: The Theater hosted its final show in 1981: the J. Geils Band, according to WBEZ. A venture led by Jam Productions Ltd. purchased the venue for $3.2 million in a court-ordered foreclosure sale, according to Crains. It has been estimated that the old palace would need tens of millions of dollars worth of work to reopen.

Take a tour of the historic theater that was posted to YouTube by Ron Ehemann below:



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